Mill Valley Film Festival

It’s not Cannes, but in 28 years, the Mill Valley Film Festival has earned a great deal of local respect. It doesn’t have quite the size or status of the San Francisco International Film Festival, but it’s way ahead of everything else in the neighborhood.

This year the festival runs from October 6th through the 16th (which is bad news for me, as it collides with professional deadlines and the Jewish High Holidays). During those eleven days, it will screen over 150 films and videos from more than 40 countries, including big Hollywood entertainments and obscure documentaries. Several films will examine African and African-American performing artists. Among the filmmakers honored with tributes are Donald Sutherland, Jeff Daniels, Amelie director Jean-Pierre Jeunet, and the late, great British director Michael Powell.

As usual, there are mini-festivals within the big one. VFest, which used to be short for Video Festival, now means Vision Festival, with an emphasis more on pushing the envelope than on electronic cinema (although I very much doubt that anything shown at VFest was shot on film). The Children’s Film Fest is self-explanatory.

Speaking of film festivals, I’m no longer listing every program on every day of every local festival in my weekly schedules. It’s just too time-consuming. Instead, my schedules will include links to the complete schedules on the festival web sites, and list only the programs I wish to tell you about–most of them noteworthy rather than recommended for the simple fact that I haven’t actually seen them.

Speaking of which, here are said films for this week:

Noteworthy: The Dreams Of Sparrows, Castro, Friday afternoon. A documentary on American-occupied Iraq, made largely by Iraqis. Part of the Arab Film Festival, and repeated in Berkeley next week.

Noteworthy: The 400 Blows, Randall Museum, Friday night. When I saw François Truffaut’s first feature back in college, it blew me away. But I haven’t seen this story of an alienated youth on the verge of delinquency in over 30 years and I don’t trust my memory enough to give it a wholehearted recommendation. Part of Art & Film’s Cineclub series, this DVD screening is actually intended for teenagers, but anyone willing to take part in the discussion afterwards is welcome.

Noteworthy: Sabah, Castro, Friday evening, and Camera 12, San Jose, Sunday evening. Canadian cross-cultural romance that pits tradition and modernity. Part of the Arab Film Festival.

Recommended: The Constant Gardner, 4 Star, open-ended run starts Friday. Fernando Meirelles does John le Carré, taking on the greed of international corporations (and the governments that serve them) while also serving up an effective thriller and a heart-wrenching love story. Ralph Fiennes is terrific as a mild-mannered British diplomat looking into the murder of his wife (Rachel Weisz, seen only in flashbacks, in the performance that will put The Mummy behind her forever). A very good movie, but it would have been a great one if only someone had given cinematographer César Charlone a tripod. Note: This description was added late on September 23; hours after the newsletter was sent out.

Recommended: American Graffiti, Washington Sq. Park, San Francisco, Saturday night. Once upon a time, George Lucas was capable of making an entertaining (and extremely profitable) movie without action or special effects. Warning: This is a DVD presentation.

Noteworthy: The Cutting Edge – The Magic of Film Editing, Orinda Theater, Friday and Saturday afternoon. If I could chose one film at the Orinda Film Festival to see, it would be this documentary about the art of film editing. Film restorer Robert A. Harris recommends it highly.

Noteworthy: Musical Interlude, Friday afternoon. Two of these three short movies about music sound promising. “Performance in Passing” looks at street performers–specifically those who work around BART. And “Visual Lyrics” examines sign-language interpreting at a folk festival. Part of the Orinda Film Festival.

Noteworthy:Cinemasports, Orinda Theater, Saturday night. Filmmaking as a race against time. Saturday morning, contestants are given instructions on what their short videos are to be about. Saturday night, the movies are shown before a paying audience. Part of the Orinda Film Festival.

Recommended: To Be or Not to Be, Stanford, Saturday through Tuesday. The Nazi occupation of Poland hardly seems like great comedy material–especially for a movie made when it was front-page news. But Ernst Lubitsch pulls it off in this story of Warsaw actors outsmarting the “master race.” The movie stars Jack Benny in his one great film performance, and Carole Lombard in her last. On a double-bill with It Should Happen to You.

Noteworthy: Bahibb al-Sima, Castro, Sunday morning. A comedy about movie-loving boy that managed to offend both Muslim and Coptic Christian religious leaders? Sounds like something worth seeing. Part of the Arab Film Festival.

Noteworthy: Shouf, Shouf Habibi!, Camera 12, San Jose, Sunday night. Dutch comedy about a Moroccan family’s troubles assimilating (and not assimilating) into western culture. Part of the Arab Film Festival.

Noteworthy: Diary of a Teenager, Camera 12, San Jose, Monday afternoon. This Egyptian film about a sexually active teenage girl in an extremely puritanical society confronts hymen restoration surgery–apparently a common operation but not a talked-about subject in a culture that puts a high value on virginity. Part of the Arab Film Festival.

3D at the Castro

When the pressures of life conflict with the pressures of running a Web site, life wins. By life, I mean the Jewish High Holidays and some articles that (unlike this blog) I’m actually getting paid to write. For the next few weeks. I’m going to have less time than usual to devote to Bayflicks.

So I’m going to take a two-week semi-break. I’ll post a schedule this Sunday for the week of October 9, and I’ll update the schedules through the week as I usually do (well, maybe a little less promptly), but I won’t post schedules for the weeks of October 16 or 23. I will try to post weekly Lincoln Logs, but no promises. The schedules should be back up to normal by the end of October.

While I’m taking my break, the Castro will host a series of 3-D movies. The Castro is, to my knowledge, one of only two local theaters that can still project the two-strip polarized 3D of the 1950’s (the other being the Stanford). The process involves two synchronized projectors, a polarized screen, and, of course, special glasses. The system was considerably better than the over/under single-strip polarized 3D of the 1970’s and ‘80’s, and vastly superior to that dreadful red-and-green slop that crops up from time to time (which is, in fact, usually red and cyan, and technically is called anaglyph 3D).

If anyone shot an actual masterpiece in 3D, I haven’t seen it. But there were some fun movies shot that way, especially during the big 3D craze of 1953 and ’54, and the Castro has put together quite a program. Not just cheap horror movies (although it certainly has those), but a musical, a film noir, a western, two Three Stooges shorts, and the only 3D film ever made by one of the world’s greatest filmmakers.

And speaking of great filmmakers, here are this week’s recommendations and comments. Most of these films are merely in 2D, and only the nearsighted will need glasses.

Recommended: Red Eye, Balboa, ongoing engagement starts Friday. Who knew that Wes Craven could make a really scary movie with almost no stage blood (okay, Music of the Heart lacked gore, but it wasn’t very scary, either). Set almost entirely within the confines of an airliner’s coach cabin, Red Eye is an old-fashioned nail-biter in the Hitchcock tradition, keeping you on the edge of your seat with every little thing that you don’t like about flying. Unfortunately, as with Collateral (last year’s neo-Hitchcock gem), logic and plausibility are thrown to the wind in the last half hour to give you an “exciting” finish. Despite the flaws, it’s still a wonderful ride…or flight. On a double-bill with 40 Year-Old-Virgin.

Recommended: Some Like It Hot, Stanford, Friday through Thursday. A few years ago, the American Film Institute called this the greatest American film comedy. I’m not sure I’d go that far, but it’s definitely in my top twenty—and it has the best closing line of any movie ever. On a double-bill with It Should Happen to You.

Recommended: Miss Sadie Thompson, Castro, Monday and Tuesday. There’s nothing quite like this 3D melodrama about sexual hypocrisy, with Rita Hayworth’s sexuality arousing Jose Ferrer’s hypocrisy. The tropical locations look great in 3D, as does Hayworth. As Howard Hughes’ publicity machine said about Jane Russell’s 3D debut, she’ll “knock both your eyes out!”

Noteworthy: Man in the Dark and Gun Fury, Castro, Wednesday. I haven’t seen or (until now) even heard of either of these movies. But a western directed by Raoul Walsh, and a low-budget film noir, both in 3D, seem worth checking out.

Noteworthy: The Beginning or the End?, Pacific Film Archive, Wednesday night. Is the classy Archive the place to go to laugh at a movie that’s allegedly so bad it’s funny? I’m guessing it will be Wednesday night, when the PFA shows this odd-sounding, apparently wildly inaccurate 1947 “docudrama” about the invention of the atomic bomb. Introduced by John Wranovics. Part of the Archive’s Doctor Atomic Goes Nuclear series.

Recommended: Hurricane Katrina Rescue Benefit, Parkway, Thursday night. I’m going to break my own rules here and recommend something I’ve never seen. But this isn’t about the movies (The Big Easy and Live and Let Die, both set in New Orleans). It’s about a big event for a good cause. The entire theater—both auditoriums—will be devoted to the party, which will also include live music by Blue Bone Express and A. J. Roach, a zydeco dance contest, and Cajun food.

Nature Films and Anti-Nature Films

I saw two similar and yet very different nature movies almost back-to-back this week. Similar in that they both dealt with large mammals living in the frigid North (as opposed to flightless birds in the frigid South), and because they both seemed more focused on people than animals. But different in that one was made by people who obviously love nature, and other by someone who just as obviously hates it.

And the nature hater made the better film: Grizzly Man, currently playing around the Bay Area.

Of course, it helps that this nature hater is the great German director Werner Herzog, and that he was examining a fascinating subject: Timothy Treadwell, a failed actor and untrained naturalist who lived peacefully with Alaska’s grizzly bears for 13 summers before one of them ate him. The bear also killed Treadwell’s girlfriend, Amie Huguenard.

You don’t learn much about bears from Grizzly Man, other than “Keep your distance.” But you learn a lot about Treadwell, who comes off as manic, enthusiastic, charismatic, delusional, and paranoid.

Grizzly Man is a film about a filmmaker. Treadwell took a video camera into the wild with him, and clearly intended to eventually edit his footage. You know those scenes in nature films were the on-screen narrator stands in the wilderness, talking enthusiastically to the camera? Herzog shows how that’s done, revealing Treadwell’s multiple takes as he tries on different emotions and bandannas.

Unlike Herzog, Treadwell clearly loved nature, but it was an idealized love that he never quite reconciled with the violent reality. He saw himself as the bears’ protector, and adopted a family of foxes as pets, seemingly unaware that teaching wild animals to not fear humans is dangerous–for them as well as for you. His misjudgment was fatal; for him, Huguenard, and the bear who killed them.

Leanne Allison and Karsten Heuer also love nature, but unlike Treadwell, they’re competent naturalists. They called their film Being Caribou, but they keep their distance from the migratory beasts that they’re following on foot. And while they occasionally talk about wanting to turn into Caribou, they know that it’s impossible. When they see bears, they’re appropriately scared. Being Caribou opens Friday at the Roxie.

Being Caribou is allegedly about the danger that Alaskan oil drilling poses to these magnificent beasts, and the environmental evils of George W. Bush. But the movie fails to make a compelling case, even to someone who already agrees with those sentiments. Nor does the movie tell you much, or make you feel much, about these animals; this is no March of the Caribou.

So what do you get? Beautiful nature scenery (something almost entirely missing from Grizzly Man), and the moderately interesting story of two seemingly nice people on an unusually difficult backpacking trip.

In one of the few effectively emotional scenes, an orphaned caribou calf approaches Allison and Heuer, hoping to be fed. Like good naturalists, and unlike Timothy Treadwell, they want to help but don’t. These two did what was right and lived to edit their own movie. The result isn’t bad, but it’s not all that good, either. It’s like the Nature Channel with a political agenda.

If crossing Alaska seems too difficult, you can cross Tilden Park and attend the Orinda Film Festival (notice how I just assume that you live west of the East Bay Hills). Opening this coming Thursday, it will present 140 films over four days.

And here’s what else you can check out:

Noteworthy: Monty Python’s Meaning of Life, Art & Film’s Cineclub, Dolby Labs, Friday night. I was going to recommend this very funny collection of Monty Python sketches, but because of limited seating at Dolby Labs, I’ve been asked not to. There is only enough space for the teenagers this presentation is intended for.

Recommended: Office Space, Clay, Friday and Saturday, midnight. If you’ve ever worked in a soul-killing office at the mercy of a boss who was evil-incarnate, you’ll like this one.

Noteworthy: The Found Footage Festival, Roxie, Friday and Saturday nights; Parkway, Sunday evening. This looks like fun. Clips from random video tapes found in garage sales, dumpsters, and other unlikely places, edited together and presented with live, comic commentary.

Recommended: The Baxter, Lumiere and Act 1 & 2, one-week engagement opens Friday. There’s nothing really surprising about Michael Showalter’s romantic comedy; you know exactly who’s going to get who before the end of the first reel. But that doesn’t keep you from laughing. The entire cast, including writer/director Showalter, Elizabeth Banks, and the wonderful Michelle Williams are letter perfect, but extra credit must go to Peter (The Station Agent) Dinklage, who appears in one scene but steals the entire movie.

Recommended: The Aristocrats, Parkway, ongoing engagement starts Friday. “A man walks into a talent agent’s office and says ‘Have I got an act for you.’” Thus begins an old joke that professional comics never tell audiences but love to tell each other. But what goes between that opening and the punch line differs with every telling, and often includes incest, bestiality, scatological acrobatics, and stuff that’s really disgusting. But as famous comics retell the joke, you laugh more than you cringe. And as they discuss the art of telling it, you learn something about how humor is fashioned.

Noteworthy: Being Caribou, Roxie, ongoing engagement starts Friday. This nature documentary isn’t bad, but it’s no March of the Caribou. It’s more like the Nature Channel with a political agenda. For a longer discussion, see the top of this week’s blog.

Recommended: The Station Agent, Old Oakland Outdoor Cinema, Saturday night. It’s hard to make a good film where almost nothing happens, but writer/director Thomas McCarthy pulls it off. A train fanatic (Peter Dinklage) inherits an out-of-use station in rural New Jersey, moves there, and makes two good friends. That’s about it, but the characters, the performances, and the atmosphere carry the picture. This is a DVD, not film, presentation.

Noteworthy: Downhill, Pacific Film Archive, Saturday night. Fans of Alfred Hitchcock will probably want to check out this 1927 early work from before he became The Master of Suspense. I know I do. Part of the Archive’s Rediscovering British Silent Cinema series, it will be presented with piano accompaniment by Joel Adlen.

Recommended: Ninotchka, Stanford, Saturday through Tuesday. Garbo’s first comedy and penultimate film is sweet, charming, romantic, and very funny. It also nails perfectly the absurdities of Communism–still well respected by many Americans in 1939 (“The last mass trials were a great success. There are going to be fewer but better Russians.”). But what else would you expect when Ernst Lubitsch directs a screenplay by Billy Wilder?

Noteworthy: No Direction Home: Bob Dylan, Roxie, Sunday afternoon. Here’s your chance to see Martin Scorsese’s epic-length documentary on the big screen before it “premieres” on public television. And just like public television, it’s free.

Recommended: Best of Youth, Part 2, Red Vic, Sunday and Monday. The second half of the best two-part, six-hour movie since The Godfather. But if you missed Part 1 last week, you may as well skip this one too and wait for a chance to see it from the beginning.

Recommended: Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, Red Vic, Tuesday through Thursday. The biggest financial scandal ever becomes the Great American tragedy in this highly entertaining documentary. Ken Lay, Jeff Skilling, and the rest of the scoundrels are so filled with optimism and faith in their own narrowly-created worldview that their fall becomes inevitable. But the filmmakers never lose sight of the real tragedy: the innocent victims that these hubris-filled businessmen took down with them.

Movies for the Week of September 9, 2005

It seems odd to write about movies at a time like this. Our country is caught between the worst natural calamity to hit our shores in nearly a century and an idiotic president who doesn’t understand what all the fuss is about. Why didn’t all those people just leave New Orleans? Don’t they have chauffeurs?

And bravo to Kayne West for doing the unthinkable–speaking from the heart on national television. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, just click here.) I disagree with West on one matter, however: I don’t believe that Bush is a racist. Our President doesn’t judge a man by the color of his skin but by the content of his bank account.

Anyway, if you haven’t donated to the Red Cross yet, please do so.

In happier news, several film festivals are on the way. Before September is over we’ll have the 9th Annual Arab Film Festival, the MadCat Woman’s International Film Festival, the Oakland International Film Festival, the Orinda Film Festival, and resfest. And then, in October, the biggie of the fall season, the Mill Valley Film Festival.

With all those festivals coming up, you better make sure your movie-going muscles are in good shape. Here are a few good workouts:

Recommended: Dr. Strangelove, Randall Museum, Friday evening. We like to look back at earlier decades as simpler, less fearful times, but Stanley Kubrick’s “nightmare comedy” reminds you just how scary things once were. Thank heaven we don’t have idiots like those running the country, now! It’s also very funny. Part of Art & Film’s Cineclub series, this DVD screening is actually intended for teenagers, but anyone willing to take part in the discussion afterwards is welcome.

Noteworthy: The Fall of Otrar, Pacific Film Archive, Friday night. Genghis Khan (not played by John Wayne) destroys the nation of Otrar in this nearly three-hour epic. Made in Kazakhstan just as the Soviet Union was collapsing, it sounds terrific. Part of the Archive’s Films From Along the Silk Road: Central Asian Cinema series.

Recommended: Brazil, Red Vic, Friday and Saturday. If Dr. Strangelove doesn’t convince you that the world is a mess, follow it up with the second greatest black comedy ever filmed, and the best distopian fantasy of them all. This is the second of three masterpieces Terry Gilliam made in the 1980′s, and the only one that isn’t a children’s fantasy at heart.

Recommended: The Big Lebowski, Aquarius, Friday and Saturday, midnight. Critics originally panned this Coen Brothers gem as a disappointing follow-up to the Coen’s previous endeavor, Fargo. Well, it isn’t as good as Fargo, but it’s still one hell of a funny movie.

Noteworthy: Electric Edwardians: The Films of Mitchell & Kenyon, Pacific Film Archive, Sunday afternoon. Early movies didn’t tell stories; they just captured life. As such, they’re a fascinating glimpse into a lost world–or more precisely, a world that, unlike all of those before it, may never be entirely lost. In the case of these recently-discovered films, that world is England at the beginning of the last century. Part of the Archive’s Rediscovering British Silent Cinema series, these shorts will be presented with “live spoken commentary” as well as piano accompaniment by Judith Rosenberg.

Recommended: Ninotchka, Rafael, Sunday evening. Garbo’s first comedy and penultimate film is sweet, charming, romantic, and very funny. It also nails perfectly the absurdities of Communism–still well respected by many Americans in 1939 (“The last mass trials were a great success. There are going to be fewer but better Russians.”). But what else would you expect when Ernst Lubitsch directs a screenplay by Billy Wilder? Part of the Rafael’s Greta Garbo series.

Recommended: Best of Youth Part 1, Red Vic, Sunday and Monday. The first half of the best two-part, six-hour movie since The Godfather. Originally made for Italian television, Best of Youth follows the fortunes of one family, a close circle of their friends, and the Italian people as a whole, from 1966 to 2003. As the story slowly unfolds, you grow to know and love these people as if they were old friends. Part 2 will screen next week.

Recommended: Spirited Away, Red Vic, Tuesday and Wednesday. Hayao Miyazaki’s masterpiece is a beautiful, complex, and occasionally scary tale of a young girl cast into a strange and magical world. The intriguing and imaginative creatures, not to mention the moral dilemmas, are beyond anything that Dorothy never had to deal with in Oz. Spirited Away’s original USA release was dubbed, but the Red Vic will present the original Japanese language version with subtitles; unless you’re bringing a child who is too young to read, this is the better choice.

Surprising Summer Hits

There’s an interesting article on movie theaters in the August 22 issue of Time Magazine (the one with the “25 Most Influential Hispanics in America” cover). Titled “Is Luxury the Ticket?” it describes some theater chains that attract customers by adding comfortable seating and good food, and sometimes even stand-up comedians before the movie. In other words, they’re putting on a better show. (I’d include a link to the article, but unless you’re a Time subscriber, you won’t be able to read it online, anyway.)

I applaud this strategy, but what really caught my eye was an unrelated comment in the second paragraph: “Theater owners and industry execs blame the [current box-office] drop not on this year’s bombs but on last year’s hits, namely Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ and Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11.”

So that’s it? The difference between last year’s “Movies are better than ever” celebration and this year’s “The industry is doomed” hand-wringing is two movies?

And look at these two. They’re both rated R. One’s a documentary, and the other has subtitles (it’s not even a foreign language film; it was a dead language film). These factors alone should have forced these flicks into the art film ghetto and out of blockbuster consideration.

From the studio’s point of view, these were the least of their sins. These movies were controversial. Almost everyone in America was deeply offended by one of these movies long before either of them were in theaters. And people don’t go to movies that offend them sight unseen. No wonder the major studios wanted nothing to do with these two.

But a funny thing happened on their way to obscurity. Each became a must-see event for the half of the population was that offended by the other. And strangely enough, half of the population is enough to generate a pretty big hit.

There’s a lesson for the Hollywood studios in this: Take risks. Back movies with points of view that aren’t universally accepted. Hey, these movies are cheaper to make than The Fantastic Four.

And there’s a lesson for theater owners, too: Make your theaters a destination worth going to. Add gourmet food. Redecorate. Put in chairs as comfortable as my recliner. And if the latest Hollywood blockbuster is a piece of junk, show something else.

Like what the Parkway is doing. Oakland’s in-spot for pizza, beer, and a second-run movie is dipping carefully into revival scheduling this week with a two-movie series (if you can call two movies a series) titled “Our Favorite Comedies.” The movies in question are Best in Show, which is wonderful, and Murder by Death, which is not. But let’s hope the trend continues.

Speaking of trends, the Balboa must have started one earlier this year. Both the Rafael and the Stanford have Garbo series coming up.

So, let’s see: Studios should fight the current trend by making more daring movies. Theaters should fight it by putting on a real show. And what should moviegoers do? Turn off the TV, leave the house, and go to one of the movies listed below.

Noteworthy: Without Fear, Pacific Film Archive, Friday night. This 1972 film from then-Soviet Uzbekistan sounds fascinating (I haven’t seen it). Set in the 1920′s, it concerns the culture clash between Communism and Islam. Since it had to get passed Soviet censors, I’m going to guess that Communism wins. Part of the Archive’s Films From Along the Silk Road: Central Asian Cinema series.

Recommended: Best in Show, Parkway, Friday through Tuesday. Christopher Guest’s dog-show mockumentary has more than its share of hilarious moments. The rest of it is pretty funny, too. Part of the Parkway’s Our Favorite Comedies series.

Recommended: Red Eye, Presidio, ongoing engagement starts Friday. Who knew that Wes Craven could make a really scary movie with almost no stage blood (okay, Music of the Heart lacked gore, but it wasn’t very scary, either). Set almost entirely within the confines of an airliner’s coach cabin, Red Eye is an old-fashioned nail-biter in the Hitchcock tradition, keeping you on the edge of your seat with every little thing that you don’t like about flying. Unfortunately, as with Collateral (last year’s neo-Hitchcock gem), logic and plausibility are thrown the wind in the last half hour to give you an “exciting” finish. Despite the flaws, it’s still a wonderful ride…or flight.

Recommended: College, Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, Saturday night. This is probably the worst feature Buster Keaton made while he had creative control over his work. But weak Keaton is still better than 90% of the comedies you’re likely to see, even when he includes some extremely racist humor. Also, while most of College is clearly Keaton playing it safe and conventional, the last few seconds of the movie are among the most bizarre, surreal, and honest things he ever did. Accompanied by Bruce Loeb on the piano.

Recommended: Mary Poppins, Lark, Sunday and Monday. The best live-action movie Walt Disney ever made, and one of the great all-time children’s pictures. Julie Andrews may have won the Oscar through a sympathy vote, but she really is wonderful in this movie. So what if it takes liberties with the books.

Recommended: Shadow of a Doubt, Creek Park, San Anselmo, Sunday night. In Alfred Hitchcock’s first great American film, a serial killer (Joseph Cotton at his most charming) returns to his small-town roots. When his favorite niece (Teresa Wright) begins to suspect that all is not right with Uncle Charlie, her own life is in danger. The locations were shot in Santa Rosa. Warning: This is a DVD, not film, presentation.

Noteworthy: Queen Christina, Rafael, Sunday night. Not really a great movie, but an interesting one for a number of reasons. Queen Christina reunites one of the great romantic teams (on and off camera) of the 1920′s–Greta Garbo and John Gilbert. It has the best part Gilbert got after talkies destroyed his career. And finally, this 1933 MGM spectacular is a good example of just how free movies were about sex before the production code came in and cleaned them up. Part of the Rafael’s Greta Garboseries.

Recommended: Them!, Castro, Wednesday. The best giant mutant insect movie of the 1950′s. Hmmm, that sounds like damning with faint praise. Okay, how about this? A thoughtful, entertaining film about the dangers of nuclear testing…specifically the dangers caused by giant, mutated ants. Let me try that again. Not only is the scientist more intelligent than the military, but so is his beautiful and available daughter (who only screams once). Part of the Castro’s Cold War Series, on a double-bill with Panic In Year Zero!

Recommended: Girl Shy, Stanford, Wednesday night. Harold knows all about seducing women; in fact, he’s written the book on it. Too bad he’s absolutely terrified of them. One of Harold Lloyd’s funniest films. Accompanied by Chris Elliott on the Wurlitzer pipe organ.

Noteworthy: Mahanagar and Charulata, Stanford, Thursday and the following Friday. I’ve seen far too few Satyajit Ray films. These two, both concerning women’s roles in Indian marriages, are among those I haven’t seen, but would like to. A nice bit of variety from the Stanford’s usual American Classic programming.

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